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India
West Bengal
Overview Background Solutions Documents
In West Bengal, the project has identified solutions to help smallholders. These are improving availability of electricity for accessing groundwater and rainwater harvesting. The project also examined the rise and fall in popularity of the treadle pump, which highlights interesting lessons for technology adoption.

Groundwater and electrification
When farmers are able to access groundwater, they cultivate lucrative crops (e.g. boro paddy) and they diversify. However, various legal acts and rising costs of groundwater use make investments difficult. As a result, agricultural productivity has declined.

In areas where groundwater is abundant, easing legal constraints and offering diesel subsidies as an interim relief measure could help to reverse this trend and improve agricultural productivity.

Natural recharge is high in West Bengal but only 42% of the state’s groundwater resources are being used due to policy restrictions and the general belief that groundwater is scarce.

A better understanding of where groundwater resources are underutilized and how policies can increase use without compromising the resource will benefit farmers and the state.

Project
Countries
Burkina
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Ethiopia
Ghana
India
Madhya Pradesh
India
West Bengal
Tanzania
Zambia
Solutions
Factors Affecting Adoption
Change the electricity tariff structure to catalyze re-emergence of competitive groundwater markets, so that small and marginal water-buying farmers can access affordable irrigation services.
    Reduce the cost of irrigation by providing a one-time capital cost subsidy to electrify 50% of pumps (~350,000 pumps) over the next 5 years in districts underlain by alluvial aquifers.
    As an interim relief measure, provide a diesel subsidy to farmers owning less than 1 ha of land and no electric pumps, up to a maximum of 100 liters of diesel/ha, to help reduce the cost of cultivation.
    Rehabilitate/build ponds to store rainwater and increase recharge (see section on rainwater harvesting).
Rural electrification
Potential effects of rural electrification include:
Farmers will use electric pumps instead of diesel pumps.
An increased area of the watershed will be used for summer rice production.
This will have an impact on the yield and water balance. Rice yields could increase by 13-25%, about 61,000-116,000 additional tons/yr.
Hydrologic impact of rural electrification
The impact of rural electrification may be small on the current sustainable exploitation of groundwater if less than 50% of rainfed area becomes irrigated. With an increase of more than 50% it may disturb low flow and groundwater especially in already intensive cultivated areas in watershed

At a 50% adoption rate:
Rural electrification for pumps could benefit 2,166,000 – 4,358,000 farmers. This equates to 3.8 – 7.6% of rural households. The potential application area is 866,000 – 1,743,000 ha or 13.2 – 26.6% of the total agricultural land area.

Diesel subsidies for pumps could benefit 1,123,000 – 3,727,000 farmers. This equates to 2.0 – 6.5% of rural households. The potential application area is 449,000 1,491,000–ha or 6.9 – 22.8% of the total agricultural land area.

Treadle pumps in Koch Bihar
There are important lessons to be learned from the story of the treadle pump about technology adoption. The success of a technology in one location at a particular point in time does not guarantee its success in other places at other times.

Koch Bihar, West Bengal, has many water lifting technologies to choose from and provides an opportunity to study adoption dynamics. Farmers there were among the earliest adopters of treadle pumps in the early 1990s. A short while later, Koch Bihar became one of the first areas to benefit from the influx of cheap, light-weight Chinese diesel pumps and, more recently, electric pumps have become popular as the electricity network is extended.

Rethinking the “technology ladder”
We did not find evidence of the “technology ladder” nor was it demonstrated that treadle pumps are a ‘stepping stone’ technology.

If motorized pumps are too expensive for smallholders, they can rent them or buy them second hand. Rental markets have emerged as a reaction to the demand from non-owners. Markets for secondhand pumps and spares are emerging as demand increases.


Affordability is not the only factor
Low cost and affordability are not necessarily the determining factors that persuade smallholders to invest in a certain technology. Other aspects, such as the availability and accessibility of alternative options, play an equally important role. As do practical factors such as labor requirements and the weight and mobility of the pump. Our survey results showed that the majority of smallholders who could not afford to buy a motor pump did not invest in a treadle pump but preferred to rent a motor pump even though this may be slightly more expensive.

Rainwater Harvesting (Hapas)

The introduction of “hapas”, small water harvesting reservoirs, has provided many benefits including enabling farmers to cultivate previously fallow land, higher crop intensity, new crops, more livestock and fish.

In dry districts, trapping rainwater and making it available in the dry season could have major implications for agriculture and livelihoods.

In 2008 a program, funded by the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), was initiated by PRADAN, to experiment with “hapas” – small reservoirs to store rainwater.

These hapas, were initially designed to cover 5% of the land and to provide supplementary irrigation to paddy, but farmers have modified them, making them larger and deeper and using them for more than just paddy.

The benefits have included
Increased average annual incomes.
Increase in the area of land under cultivation.
Diversified crops.
The introduction offish.
An increase in livestock (cows, goats and chickens).
A decline in migration and more children attending school.
Job creation excavating hapas and in agricultural labour.
Workshops at state and district level and field validation with farmers identified rainwater harvesting as a priority and an appropriate solution in areas where there is limited scope for groundwater development.
Jaldhaka Watershed Study
Assessing Likely Social and Environmental Impact of AWM Interventions
AWM interventions may have a number of unforeseen impacts on the environment and society. This assessment was undertaken with people in the Jaldhaka watershed to understand their current practices and to consider what might happen under various AWM intervention scenarios.
The Jaldhaka river is a tributary of the Brahmaputra river and flows through Bhutan, West Bengal India, and Bangladesh. The area in India covers 6,410 km2, which is 66% of the total watershed. This includes mountainous areas, a piedmont upstream and a flat middle and down-stream area. Rainfall is high (3,180 mm/y) with 80% falling in the rainy season (June-Sept).

About 65% of the population lives below the Indian poverty line. The three main livelihood systems are independent tea producing farmers, who are financially the best off, farmers with multi-crop agriculture, and those dependent on off –farm and non-farm income, who are the least well off.

Since each household depends on and manages its own resources in the Jaldhaka watershed and there are few community initiatives related to livelihood strategies and farming, those without land, or with particularly small parcels, are vulnerable to shocks.

Social and Environmental impacts of AWM Solutions
The scenario of rural electrification would potentially have both positive and negative social and environmental impacts.

The tea growers would benefit by being able to use sprinkler irrigation and power sprayers for pesticide application. Multi-crop farmers would be able to use pumps at the optimal time, leading to greater production of summer-season rice and more income.

Overall electrification will have livelihoods benefits in the watershed if steps are taken to ensure equity of access and mitigate potential side effects. When intensifying crop production, training on soil health and fertility should be included.

Agricultural productivity can be improved but there are challenges to manage this equitably and to limit potentially negative social, health and environmental impacts.

Here are some of the challenges and recommended mitigation measures:
Water quality. Water quality will restrict use in some areas, for example in coastal regions where the groundwater is saline and in places where there are high concentrations of metals in the water. Specifically, arsenic contamination of groundwater in parts of the state are a concern. While arsenic in groundwater is unlikely to affect the quality of irrigated grain, it poses a threat to human health through drinking water supplies. To address this, the following measures are recommended:
Short-term measures: Affordable technologies exist, e.g. low-cost filters, to eliminate arsenic from drinking water.
Long-term measures: As improved nutrition reduces the risk of arsenic absorption by humans, investments in reducing poverty and improving nutrition could mitigate negative health impacts of arsenic contamination.
Groundwater availability. In some parts of the state groundwater use is not an option and other AWM solutions will be required.

Water monitoring. Regular monitoring of water quantity and quality is required to ensure that groundwater is not being over exploited and that other issues, such as water quality are not arising.

Training. Training can address perceived limits to water availability and improve agricultural practices.

Strengthen local institutions. Strengthening local institutions and improving links between them and with formal institutions is likely to improve negotiation, planning and results of interventions.